LITTLE CHRISTMAS EVE
Victory awaits him, who has everything in order – “luck” we call it. Defeat is definitely due for him, who has neglected to take the necessary precautions – “bad luck” we call it.Roald Amundsen
What an amazing day today turned out to be! We got up at around 7.30am and went out onto our balcony into the frigid air; it was already -10°C but we’d been advised we could expect it to become even colder. We could see the Arcadia negotiating her way into her berth in Oslo, Norway.
We had been to this interesting port twice before; once in 2002 on the Caronia, and once in 2007 on the maiden voyage of the Queen Victoria. We hadn’t booked any excursions at all because we already knew what we wanted to do – visit the Maritime Museum.
The Maritime Museum in Oslo is actually three separate museums all situated next to each other. Looking on Google Maps, we saw that it was a bus ride away on the number 30 bus. While we were looking at the ticket costs for the museums, we saw that there was an “Oslo Pass” app which allowed you to purchase a pass into over 30 different museums and galleries as well as free public transport to and from them. It looked good value for money for about 30 quid for a 24-hour pass, so we each purchased one.
Google Maps directed us, on foot, to the National Theatre which was where we could catch the bus. In the frigid air it was very icy underfoot, and I had to wear ice grips over my trainers so as not to fall. We gingerly made our way to the National Theatre; I was pleased when we arrived because my legs were starting to ache; I think you walk differently and use different muscles when walking in ice/snow.
We didn’t have to wait long for the bus and we thankfully boarded into the warmth when it arrived. The Google Maps app was excellent as it told you which would be the next stop; we had 11 stops over a 30 minute journey before we alighted outside the first of the museums we wanted to visit; one on which the word FRAM was painted above its doors. The museum had a very steeply pitched roof; once we got inside we realised why.
There, in front of us, stood the polar exploration ship Fram. Not a replica, but the real, actual ship on which Roald Amundsen had made his epic voyage to the south pole in 1911. I love anything to do with the early explorers and navigators and I had wanted to visit this museum since 2007, the last time we were in Oslo but didn’t have time to visit as we were on an organised excursion. This time we could (and did!) take as long as we liked. 🙂
It was utterly enthralling. We walked around the wooden ship looking at its timbers and its ice-strengthened hull and anchors, and the word FRAM painted proudly on its side at the stern (strangely enough, not on its bow, although I supposed the waves and salt and ice would have quickly worn it off). Lots of posters and photographs told the story of the 1911 expedition, the “race to the pole” between Amundsen and Scott.
The highlight was the fact that we were actually allowed to board the Fram. We could walk all over the upper deck and see the hatches as well as the ship’s wheel. Climbing down the steep ladders, we went below decks and saw the dining room where the crew would eat, the mess area where they would relax by smoking and playing cards and their individual cabins, including the cabin, furniture, bed, books and charts of Roald Amundsen himself. 🙂
Even further below decks we came to the galley and the storeroom that housed provisions such as flour and canned foods. There was also a chilled area (not difficult when travelling to the Antarctic!) in which whole pigs and sides of beef were hung up on hooks. We also visited the engine room; yes, even though Fram was predominantly a sailing ship she still had a diesel engine (she was the first one to have one). In addition, she had a large wind turbine on the top deck which generated electricity for electric light on board. Fram was a very advanced ship for the time, built to Amundsen’s stringent specifications.
Below decks there were also kennels where the sled dogs were housed. They had brought 34 dogs with them which became 52 during the voyage. In addition, we saw the store area where they kept the tents, sledges, skis and walking poles – the actual ones that had crossed the vast unexplored ice-scape en route to the south pole. Wow! This was utterly amazing.
After we’d explored as much as we could on board the Fram, we “disembarked” and continued around the museum, as there was certainly lots to see. An underpass formed a connection to an adjacent room which held the ship Gjøa. The Gjøa was the first ship to be sailed through the entire Northwest Passage. Roald Amundsen and his six companions, most notably Fridtjof Nansen, accomplished this in 1903-06.
We boarded the Gjøa for a look around, but she was a much smaller vessel than the Fram so there was not as much to see. In addition, my legs were aching after wandering around the museum for hours so I thankfully took five minutes out, sitting on a wooden bench in the Gjøa.
We decided we could use a coffee, so we went along to the small café in the museum but it was inexplicably closed. We thought we’d go and have a look outside as we were eager to explore another nearby museum, that containing the famous exploration raft Kon Tiki.
Outside it was still crisp and wintry, so we gingerly picked our way across the icy pavement into a café conveniently situated between the two museums. We ordered a hot coffee each and Trevor had a fruit bun while I undulged in a bag of crisps (I miss my crisps when we’re away on holiday!!) 🙂
We then made our way to the Kon Tiki museum and gained admission by showing the QR codes on the Oslo Pass we had on our phones. Then we went inside where, once again, I stood staring in awe; there, in front of me, was the actual Kon Tiki herself, the balsa wood raft on which Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl had made his epic crossing of the Pacific from Peru to Polynesia in 1947.
Thor Heyerdahl had noticed the similarities between the native Polynesian people and the indigenous people of Peru, and believed that the South Americans could have reached Polynesia in pre-Columbian times. He decided to prove his theory by building a raft, using only the materials and skills available at the time, and sailing from Peru to Polynesia. His idea met with much scorn and opposition as it was believed no-one could have made the 4,000 mile voyage in only a raft.
The Kon Tiki was built using nine balsa wood logs lashed together with hemp ropes; a large sail was constructed as well as a ‘cabin’ made out of reeds and split bamboo. A crew of six manned the Kon Tiki, each aware that if the expedition were to fail, they were likely to lose their lives.
Thor Heyerdahl gave himself 100 days to complete the voyage; in fact, he successfully reached Raroia, an uninhabited atoll in French Polynesia, after 101 days, on 7th August 1947. In fact, the Kon Tiki struck a reef and was largely destroyed, and the crew spent some time on the islet before they were picked up in canoes by some locals.
The expedition was a complete success. DNA tests on the local population proved that they had ancestors that had come from South America. The remains of the Kon Tiki were brought back to Norway where she was reconstructed, and here we were, in Oslo, standing looking at her. Wow! 🙂
There was just so much to see and do in the Maritime Museums. Our final visit of the day was to look at some preserved Viking ships; we saw a very old (approximately 2,000 years) dugout canoe as well as a Viking ship (a small one, not one of the big long boats). We also rested our weary legs by sitting and watching a short film showing how the Viking ships were constructed.
In total, we spent over five hours looking at famous exploration vessels; what an interesting and fascinating day it had been. It’s one thing to learn about the intrepid early explorers and their famous ships, but to see and touch the actual vessels on which these voyages (literally into the unknown) were made was something else. Fantastic! 🙂
We decided we’d better make our way back to the bus stop as it was a 30 minute ride back to the National Theatre and we still had a 15 minute or so walk (in the ice!) back to the Arcadia. We saw a number 30 bus coming so we boarded it, but when it reached the end of the route we realised it had been going in the wrong direction! The driver helpfully pointed out the correct stop for us and told us another bus would be along soon, and indeed it was.
We arrived back at the Arcadia about 5.30pm, giving us exactly an hour to get washed and changed and ready for dinner. As we reached the top of the gangplank it was like being in a frigid wind tunnel in the -14°C temperature. We could not get into the lift fast enough, and we felt sorry for the crew members who would have to be on watch all night, as the Arcadia was going to be in port overnight and most of tomorrow too.
Back in E26, we got ready for dinner, stopping off at the Piano Bar for a snifter before dinner. All eight of us were present at table #61 and we all asked each other what we’d been up to. For some, it was their first visit to Oslo and they had been on the organised excursion. When we enthusiastically told them what we’d seen and done today no-one seemed too impressed. They mustn’t have been interested in ships or explorers because they hadn’t heard of the Fram or the Kon Tiki.
The service at table #61 was rushed and haphazard as usual. We only had one glass of wine (no-one offered to top up our glasses or bring more drinks) and it was the usual palaver of trying to get an after-dinner liqueur at the end. Les and Rose, the couple sitting opposite us, asked for a Cointreau which they never did get. Dreadful service. 🙁
Afterwards, we went along to the Rising Sun for a drink before it was time to go into the theatre. It was blimmin’ freezing in there. The ship seemed to have gome from stiflingly hot to Arctic. Once again, we saw John and Linda and joined their table and regaled each other with our doings for the day. Then we went into the Palladium Theatre for tonight’s performance, which featured the singing male trio “Triptonic” again, accompanied by the excellent ship’s orchestra. At least we can say the entertainment is superb.
The theatre, like all of Deck 2 on this ship, was frigid. We actually saw some people sitting in their coats and woolly hats. This was unavoidable because with the gangplank being down overnight, the large doors opening from the security and check in/check out areas onto the gangway had to remain open. So the icy tendrils of air from the -14°C temperatures pervaded the ship. Trevor and I said it would have been a lot warmer than the conditions experienced by Amundsen and his crew on the Fram! 🙂
We met up with John and Linda in the Ocean Room for the Syndicate Quiz. Once again, there was much discussion and debate about the various answers we submitted. We didn’t win; the winning team scored two points more than we did.
Then it was up to the Crow’s Nest again as we wanted to be as far away from the cold as possible. They still hadn’t fixed the leaking roof and this time both the toilets in the ladies were out of order. I had to go down a deck and along for quite a while before I found a working loo! 🙁
Once again it was a late night, getting on for 2.00am again as we left the Crow’s Nest after a really great day. We were in Oslo again tomorrow, and hoped to have time to visit the Norwegian Armed Forces Museum which was quite nearby.
Turning up the heating in our cabin, we settled down and slept very well.